September was a cheap month. We actually spent less than $3,000 for the whole month of travel, if you exclude the flights between Cuba and Cancun. Not a bad effort.
We managed to spend so little in the tourist hotspot of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico because we were pretty much working the entire time. And when I say working, I don’t mean cooped up in our rented apartment glued to our computer screens each day. (Which, don’t get me wrong, is something we do a lot.)
Instead, we were going on adventures for work.
What kind of exploring did we get up to this month as part of our work?
We went rappelling into caves, scuba diving in cenotes, rowed down a river on a punt while eating a four course Mexican dinner, stayed in a five star resort, released turtles on the beach and drove a speed boat off the shores of a Caribbean island.
Yes, I know, it doesn’t sound like work.
But it was.
We got all of these experiences complimentary, in exchange for coverage on our blog. These list of activities were all things we wanted desperately to do in the Yucatan and so we worked for them. But we didn’t get paid in cash, we got paid by receiving the tours for free.
And in return, we will spend many hours editing video footage, sifting through images, writing up blog posts and publishing updates on social media. But it’ll all be worth it, because we’ll be spreading the news about the great things there are to do in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, and hopefully inspiring some of you to travel here.
It is work, but it’s so much fun that it doesn’t feel like work in the traditional sense.
You make your own luck
Lately so many people have been saying how lucky we are.
They ask us how long we’ve been travelling for, and when we tell them we’ve been travelling for 17 months they say, “Oh, you are SO lucky. I wish I could travel for that long.”
But I want to tell them that it hasn’t got anything to do with luck.
Aside from the first six months of our travels when we lived off savings, we’ve been working all the time we’ve been travelling. That’s how we’ve managed to travel for so long.
Appearances can be deceiving
When you read our blog it must look like we’re just sipping cocktails on the beach in Caribbean (and don’t get me wrong, we have done that a lot) but what you don’t see is that behind the scenes we’re working our butts off.
It’s sometimes tough when we’ve been hiking all day long and you get back exhausted. After dinner and a glass of wine and all you want to do is nod off in front of Homeland on Netflix. (And if it wasn’t for Claire Danes’ whiny voice you probably even could.)
But you have a large deadline looming so you work for a further five hours before hitting the hay. Welcome to our world which is a mix of play hard / work hard.
The night before we left for Cuba, I worked until 3:30am and then had a one hour nap before getting up to catch our flight. I knew we weren’t going to have reliable internet at our next destination and so I had to make sure everything was in order before we went.
When we travelled with our friend Kristin through Colombia, we had a number of deadlines and we had to work a little each day. We’d told her in advance and she was fine with it, but was still surprised at how much time we actually spent in front of our computers.
How we generate our income
Aside from our blog, which generates next to no money (we earn far less now after we decided to stop receiving guest posts from companies because we felt they didn’t fit with our branding), we earn all of our income from our business Red Platypus.
We’d love for Red Platypus to be completely focused on travel-focused content creation, but at present we mostly do social media, articles and copywriting for corporate companies that don’t relate to travel. It keeps us busy and pays for our travel addictions and thankfully it is work that we still enjoy.
But we work hard for those paychecks.
Although let’s be realistic. We’re not working 40 hour weeks. We’re probably averaging 15 – 20 hour weeks each.
What we value
We could work longer if we wanted more money, but we don’t.
We value travelling over making more money, and when we started this journey, travelling was what our life was about. And it still is.
We value exploring the world over making cold-hard cash, and these values aren’t something we want to change.
Because what’s the point of going to the Yucatan Peninsula if all you stare at is the harsh blue glare of your computer screen?
What we have changed is that we’re working smarter than we did in London. Working for yourself means you have control over your income, and so even though we’re working a lot less than we did in the UK, we’re making around the same amount of money.
Our spending is down significantly since we left London too – because we decided to follow our passion for writing about travel and it’s paying us back – if not in cash then in adventures we work for.
Hard work = luck
So, we’re not lucky. We’ve worked hard to be able to travel for 17 months straight. It was kind of scary when we left our day jobs in London, not knowing where we’d be in the world when our money ran out.
It was frightening knowing the money would run out and then we wouldn’t have jobs.
But we left anyway, and the money didn’t run out. Not out of luck but because we created jobs for ourselves instead.
Although we have money, we still live a life of uncertainty.
Sometimes we still don’t know where we’ll be tomorrow. Right now we don’t even have accommodation booked past Saturday.
But sometimes life’s about embracing the unknown… because if you always think you know where you’re going to be in the future you’re either going to be very disappointed, or very bored.
We are lucky… in a sense
Although I know that our lifestyle didn’t come about because of luck, I know we are more fortunate than others and for this we are grateful.
We were born in a first world country where our parents didn’t have to worry about paying for our healthcare if we got sick. Our parents saved to send us to good schools and then after graduating we were able to go to university. Already this put us ahead of millions in the world.
We were able to get jobs that pay significantly more than the minimum wage in countries like India and Nigeria, and we never had to worry about war interfering in our day-to-day lives.
Add to this the fact that we live in the 21st century, where it’s possible for us to work anywhere in the world with a wifi connection, and perhaps we are lucky after all.
But chances are, if you’re reading this from a computer, then you’re lucky too.
Have you created your own luck?
Breakdown of our spending in September
|Travel budget in September (US dollars)|
|Public transport (buses and taxis)||$296.38|
*Other includes: Hair cut, weekly gym membership in Playa del Carmen, TBEX tickets, Cuban cigars, Cuban departure tax, scuba diving in Cozumel.